I used our Shipton Mill light rye flour for this bread, and I fed my starter with a mix of dark and light rye flours. This recipe is loosely based on one that Salah Bouremmane taught me, and which I have adapted for home cooks like myself.
If you don’t have rye sourdough starter but already have a wheat sourdough starter going, you can take a heaped tablespoon or so of it and feed it with 100g rye flour and 100g water to convert it over – this is a tip Chris Holister gave me for if you don’t want to have to keep a variety of different sourdough starters going.
Repeat this feeding for a couple of days before you bake to create a lively rye sourdough starter, filled with bubbles (obviously don’t do this if baking for anyone who wants to avoid wheat or needs to be sure it is 100% pure rye, but otherwise it is an easy technique for getting a rye sourdough starter going at short notice).
When transferring the dough between work surface and bowl or tin, I find it helps to wet my hands with cold water, which helps prevent the dough from sticking to them.
Makes one 800g loaf
Mix the water and starter in a bowl, and add the rye flour. Combine it together, adding the salt last of all. The dough will be very sticky, as this is the nature of the flour and the grain.
Tip the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and knead it with the heel of your hand for a couple of minutes until it become smoother, ensuring all the ingredients are fully incorporated (sometimes I do this in the bowl if I’m feeling lazy!). It won’t be a totally smooth dough due to the nature of the flour. Transfer to a bowl liberally dusted with rye flour, cover, and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Lightly oil a non-stick 900g loaf tin. Dust your work surface with rye flour and tip the dough out. Shape the dough into a round ball. Cover with a cloth and rest for 10 minutes at room temperature, then use the palms of your hands to tap against the sides of the dough to shape it into a bloomer. Place it in the loaf tin.
Using your fingers, gently flatten the bread into the tin and generously flour the top of it with rye flour. Cover with a cloth and leave it in a warm place to prove for 3 – 4 hours, until the top of the loaf has started to really crack. It doesn’t crack a significant amount more in the oven, so it’s important to give it enough time beforehand for the cracks to develop.
Preheat your oven to 230°C. Place around 12 ice cubes in an ovenproof dish in the bottom of your oven to create steam.
Place the loaf tin in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, and then quickly remove the ice cubes. Bake for a further 40-45 minutes. Rye bread takes a bit longer to bake than some other grains.
Insert a metal skewer into the bread to check whether it is baked – if the skewer comes out clean the bread should be baked throughout. Turn it out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Rye bread often slices better the day after baking.